“But is it art, decoration or design?” The question came up a few times during the private view of Virgil Abloh’s new exhibition at Paris’s Galerie kreo, where he’s showing 20 or so pieces that include tables, benches, concrete vases and giant mirrors. This is a Paris first for the Off-White founder and menswear designer at Louis Vuitton, who holds an M. Arch from IIT in Chicago, has been a renowned DJ since his time with the Been Trill collective, is a friend and collaborator of Kanye West’s, as well as an artist who has been celebrated by a major retrospective that toured several American museums... Abloh dealt with the question good-naturedly, gently laughing at ideas which he feels are “profoundly entrenched but have no meaning.” Are the French, of whom it is said that they love nothing better than to categorize, ready for the breaking down of boundaries that Abloh is championing and of which his career is the perfect demonstration?
Whatever field Abloh is working in – fashion, art, design, music – his practice is always one of displacement. First of all spatial: he transfers a practice or an object from one cul- tural field to another. At the Galerie kreo, his concrete pieces are covered with graffiti realized by his own hand (the gallery can at last congratulate itself on having exhibited street art!), reminding us that his 1990s childhood in the Chicago suburbs plunged him early on into skate and graff culture. “Graffiti is a language a lot of people don’t get,” he told Numéro, “but when you’re able to decode the use of colour and lettering, you can distinguish different artists and cities. I can recognize graffiti from Brazil, for example.”